Is Paris always a good idea? The answer is yes, especially if the tour guides are two of the city’s most legendary producers and DJs – Breakbot and Irfane – who will be showing you the real Paris that they know and love on YouTube.
The brainchild of Singapore-based events agency Collective Minds, “Paris My Neighbourhood” is a street-style documentary filmed in partnership with Ed Banger Records and the Embassy of France in Singapore. It is part of vOilah! 2020, the annual festival that showcases the best of French and Singaporean innovation and creativity.
“Irfane and Breakbot have been travelling with us around Asia many times and for almost a decade now. This idea was spawned by our trip to Paris last year, when this dangerous duo showed us around instead,” says Zaran, Co-Founder of Collective Minds. “Their Paris was very different from the Paris we see in the movies. Despite current travel restrictions, we still want to wander the world so we thought this would be the perfect antidote. We can transport ourselves to their neighbourhood, even if it’s just for a few minutes.”
Besides seeing the beauty of Paris through their visionary eyes, the documentary will spotlight their favourite places for music, arts and culture, as well as food and drinks. The documentary also features cultural icon Busy P (real name Pedro Winter), the founder of Ed Banger Records.
“We had never done something like this before and that comes with a little stress. But we are grounded by the vision of wanting the documentary to be as genuine and intimate as possible, reflecting our – Breakbot and I – daily lives in the 18th arrondissement of Paris (Barbès). It’s a lively place with a great socioeconomic and demographic diversity, like much of Singapore,” Irfane comments.
The feature is heavily influenced by Breakbot and Irfane’s priorities in life – food and music – and for a sneak peek on what the series has to offer, please see some of the itinerary highlights below:
● Go crate digging at the best record stores in Paris like Balades Sonores and Dizonord.
● Appreciate contemporary art (Galerie Ruttowksi) and film at Cinémathèque Française
and Bibliothèque François Truffaut.
● Breakbot and Irfane’s gastronomic journey in Barbès for quality French brasserie
cuisine, natural wine bar and small plates restaurant Déviant, and the only cheesemaker
in Paris, La Laiterie de Paris.
● See French fashion at its best at Porte de Clignancourt design flea market.
● Visit music studios like Ed Banger Records, Motorbass Studio and Monsieur Francis
Vanot’s synth repair store.
Matthieu Dartiguenave, the Regional Music Attaché at the Embassy of France in Singapore, also shares, “The vOilah! France Singapore Festival highlights the strategic partnership between the two countries, and the Ed Banger label is deeply connected to the City-State. Each time the artists of the collective visit, it is a huge success! Even though travelling is no longer possible, ‘Paris My Neighbourhood’ is an online invitation to wander in the Paris of Breakbot and Irfane – a multicultural Paris of chance encounters where lifestyle, cuisine and personalities meet – and to discover Paris as you’ve never seen it before.”
1. Could you provide 2-3 more insider spots for either arts and culture, music or F&B?
Irfane: There’s a very good cinema in Barbès, Le Louxor. It is 99-years-old, and you can definitely feel the history of the place when you watch a movie. Built in 1920 by Henry Zipcy, it’s one of the only cinemas left from pre-war entertainment and possibly the oldest movie palace of Paris. It was an Egyptian Revival marvel of Paris – very luxurious for the neighbourhood – but it failed to find an audience. It got better showing “exotic” films from Bollywood, North Africa and even erotic features at night. In the 1980s, it turned into a nightclub until it was abandoned for 20 years. Saved from demolition, the City of Paris actually restored it into a lavish theatre; buying a movie ticket also gives you access to the bar-cum-restaurant with a rooftop terrace, offering a nice view of the neighbourhood.
Breakbot: It is a famous place but I always recommend visitors to check the Centre Pompidou, a.k.a Beaubourg. The quirky “high-tech” architecture and the view alone are worth the visit, but the permanent collection is breathtaking, the exhibitions (at the Musée National d’Art Moderne) are always interesting and the library is a great source of inspiration. It’s also home to IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research.
Irfane: Our aim to offer some insight into our everyday life and spots. The only place we discovered together was Chapelle XIV (Shown in episode 1) as it opened recently. I’ve been a patron of their first store which is in the 20th arrondissement for some years now, so I was very happy to learn they had opened a space closer to ours.
2. Tell us more about the charm of Barbès using 1-2 personal stories/experiences. And how has Barbès/Paris inspired your work?
Breakbot: The charm of Barbès is definitely bound to its diversity. When you walk on the streets it sometimes feels like you’re traveling. One street will have a community from one country and the next street you’re in a different continent. This is most inspiring because each country has a different cultural tradition, and there’s a lot to learn.
Irfane: And it’s the diverse community, and, in turn, a constant exposure to different people from different backgrounds and different countries, that will sometimes inspire us to create.
Breakbot: Since our output is always the fruit of our surroundings and the way we channel it, there is some influence. Especially the coffee (shown in episode 1)! Keeps me awake.
3. How has life been in the midst of lockdowns (and ongoing events), and why is it important for you to film this series now? On that note, why is it important for countries to continue supporting one another (like Singapore and France with Voilah!).
Breakbot: The pandemic has obviously stopped us from touring. We spend more time in our neighbourhood than we ever did, and yet there’s always something new to discover. Showcasing the shops and places we love in Paris is a way to show them our support. We care about the fact that they make our lives better by the quality of their hard work. If traveling is impossible right now you can at least prepare it virtually! I believe that sharing culture between countries is very important at the moment.
Irfane: To be honest, the pandemic has actually given us the time and headspace to really focus on the music without the stress of travelling, so it has worked pretty well for our creative flow!
4. Any recent or upcoming releases people can look out for?
Irfane: New music! Working on an EP but in the meantime, finishing a track with our buddy Yuksek that will be featured on a compilation available on Bandcamp.
Breakbot: All profit will go to an NGO helping out in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion. The release date is slated for 24th November 2020.
Enjoy episode 1 and 2 of “Paris My Neighbourhood” below:
Credit responses to Breakbot (Thibaut Jean-Marie Michel Berland), Irfane (Christopher Irfane Khan-Acito) and Collective Minds.